With the sudden popularity of the "Battle Royale/King of the Hill" genre in the video game community, it was only a matter of time until another one shows up: The Darwin Project.
The Darwin Project by development studio Scavenger Studios is a "Battle Royale" game with some survival elements. It was announced at E3 2017 in June. The game recently had two closed alphas for the media and I was lucky enough to join them.
The game consists of ten players each with a bow and an axe which are the only weapons in the alpha. In the lobby, players will be given the chance to choose their own upgrade load-out, which can be crafted during the game. If you prefer boots that makes your character quieter or a fire arrow that does more damage in short ranges, you will be able to switch during the lobby phase of the game.
Each player will be set in one of nine quadrants on the map and will have to craft items and upgrades to survive against the elements and the others. Players can collect materials such as wood, leather from animals and couches, and various traps that can be crafted or collected through chest.
To survive, players would have to use these materials to upgrade their weapons, make traps, craft arrows and fight of the cold by making fire or a coat.
All players have a "cold resistance" meter which has to be kept high to avoid succumbing to frostbite and die. Crafting fires will slowly raise the bar back up when you stand near it and crafting the cold resistance coat can make the meter decrease slower.
This is a fantastic system because it keeps players on their toes. Weapons can be upgraded. For example, the axe can be upgraded to do more damage or chop down wood faster and the bow can upgraded to shoot harder.
However, once the player had picked an upgrade in the lobby, they will not be able to change it so weapons can only be upgraded one way. There are also crates that are deployed on a random quadrant which gives a player a very valuable material called "electronics."
This resource can be used to craft special abilities like super jumps, brief invincibility and gun turret, but everyone can go and take it so it won't be easy acquiring it.
However, be careful when crafting upgrades because The Darwin Project has a mechanic where other players can track you and your footsteps by examining telltale items left from where you crafted your materials.
Again, this is another mechanic that keeps players on their toes and can either use this to their advantage or be used against them. Going back to arena, each of the quadrant will randomly closed until only one remains.
This keeps the game from becoming too long and will almost always result in an epic battle between two heavily decked-out players in a deathmatch. During the second closed alpha of the game, Scavenger Studios implemented the "game director" position which acts like an 11th player in the game.
The game director has the ability to close zones, give other players clues, deploy electronics, etc. This gives the game a very dynamic and fun element; think Battlefield 4's commander system but more impactful.
The game looks similar to Overwatch in terms of graphics. It has a cartoonish style much like Overwatch and Fortnite. The environments that the people over at Scavenger Studios made are not particularly unique but they are made well.
Most are snow levels which can be repetitive, but it is essential to the game as the "cold resistance" meter would be irrelevant. However, the snow that players walk around in looks realistic and had varying depths. This type of polish is what makes a game much more immersive.
This is the area that the game can definitely improve on. The ambient noises like the wind and wolf howls are far too faint and require some concentration to hear.
Kills are accompanied by an obnoxiously loud announcer voice and an unnecessary alarm sound. Despite the problems with sound design, there are a lot of good elements too. For example, combat sounds are very satisfying: Each "thwack" from the bow was a shot of catharsis, especially when you hit your intended target.
Since The Darwin Project is still in alpha stages, giving a score wouldn't be necessary but I like what I see so far. This game has so much potential and can easily give PlayerUnknown's Battleground a run for its money; although it may be too early to tell.
Each round only lasts about 10 to 15 minutes at a time and it is filled with thrilling action. This is its main advantage against PlayerUnknown's Battleground: its lack of downtime and its lack of randomly generated equipment.
With the surge of "Battle Royale" games inbound, The Darwin Project has the potential to be a great outlier.